On May 25 at the O2 Arena in London, England, Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler will meet in a rematch of their thrilling battle in Herning, Denmark, in April of 2010. Fighting in front of his home crowd, Kessler won that fight by decision.
This time the fight will go down on Froch's turf. The tough Brit has emerged as a major star in his homeland in the past couple of years. On a media call I participated in last week, promoter Kalle Sauerland revealed that this fight sold out in a few hours.
Kessler and Froch are two of the toughest fighters in the game and have elite resumes. There is major international excitement for this fight. It will be broadcast live on HBO at 6 p.m. ET and as a prime-time replay at 10.
|Mikkel Kessler||Carl Froch|
|Record:||46-2, 35 KOs||30-2, 22 KOs|
|Hometown:||Copenhagen, Denmark||Nottingham, England|
On paper these two look like near-duplicates of each other. Froch has an inch advantage in the reach department, and he definitely made use of it last fight.
Kessler has had more fights, but both men have a very similar level of experience against world-class opponents. Froch has fought slightly better competition recently.
Kessler has the higher KO percentage, but Froch can definitely punch like a world champion. Both men have well-proven, durable chins.
The IBF and WBA are both recognizing this fight as a super middleweight title unification bout, but everybody who follows the sport knows that Andre Ward is the true world champ at 168. Ward holds decisive victories over both Kessler and Froch.
But regardless of whether or not this is a legitimate title fight, it is still a major event for the sport. These are two exciting veteran fighters who engaged in an extremely action-packed and competitive fight three years ago.
This is a long-anticipated rematch, and the fact that it's happening in England this time is a serious motivating factor for both men. On the media call, Froch discussed how much he loves to fight in front of an English crowd: “You're rewarded for every good thing you do...it is an advantage and I'm going to relish it.”
For his own part, Kessler stated, “I promised Carl that if the fight should ever happen again I'm going to be on his home turf. And I'm a man of my word.”
Froch is an extremely durable and well-conditioned fighter. He sets a hard, physical pace and sticks to it. He has fought so long, and so successfully, at the world-class level that he has a very easy time remaining calm and confident before and during a fight.
Froch fights well moving backward. He throws dangerous punches off his back foot, which allows him to score sudden, jolting shots on come-forward fighters like Kessler.
Froch can box and he can brawl, and he is very good at mixing the two. Likewise, his ability to switch from defense to offense in a blink makes him a constant threat.
Kessler is a picture-book prize fighter. He moves efficiently forward, cutting off the ring behind a stiff jab and a very proper high guard, looking for the opportunity to let the big right hand go. He is a physically powerful fighter and can often muscle an opponent into position when necessary.
Kessler is a thinking fighter and is very good at setting opponents up for multiple-punch combinations.
For this camp, Kessler has sparred with undefeated pros Nathan Cleverly and George Groves. On the media call, the veteran credited the two young fighters with helping him to get sharp again: “They want to show me they can beat me.”
He has a very bad habit of squaring up with his opponent when he throws his own right hand. This makes his torso a much bigger target than it needs to be and puts him in significant danger of catching a Kessler right hand flush on the button.
Froch's jab is formidable, but he holds the lead arm dangling down the front of his body, in the manner of Tommy Hearns. As a result, when he gets lazy with the jab, he becomes very vulnerable to the overhand right. Kessler had great success catching him with this punch in their last fight.
While Froch uses movement well, he can be very predictable about his angle of attack. Kessler had a lot of success timing his attacks in their last fight.
Kessler has been relatively active since his last fight with Froch, but his level of competition has been a step down from what he built his reputation on. Recent opponents Allan Green and Brian Magee are tough, but simply not talented enough to have forced Kessler to be as sharp as he will need to be against Froch.
Kessler is a crisp puncher, but at times during their last fight, Froch's irregular movement clearly threw off Kessler's timing. Instead of snapping his right hand out sharply, he ended up lobbing it, as if trying to catch up to an opening he realized he was about to miss.
Carl Froch needs to be ready to attack under and around Kessler's high guard. He needs to look to throw uppercuts off his back foot when he draws Kessler forward.
Froch is not especially known as a lead hooker, but he scored well against Kessler with the punch in their first fight. If he can manage to attack Kessler from some tricky angles, the left hook should be a very big punch for him.
Froch had some of his best scoring attacks last time when he varied the tempo of his punches. I sometimes see Froch criticized for having below-average hand speed. His punches look pretty brisk to me, but he is a bit like a baseball pitcher with a 91-93 mph fastball, but a terrific change.
In other words, he had no trouble punching people out, but he is at his best when he is changing speeds.
Mikkel Kessler will win this fight if he can perform and execute like a perfectly calibrated boxing machine.
He needs to cut off the ring with efficient footwork and let his hands go with crisp combinations to the body and head. When he is throwing the right cross, he needs to have the left hook ready to go behind it.
He needs to keep his hands up in the high guard when he isn't punching, and he needs to change levels to disrupt Froch's stiff jab.
He needs to be ready to make Froch pay every time the Brit squares up on him or gets lazy with his jab. He needs to have his finger on the trigger, ready to let go with the hook to the body or right hand upstairs.
The last fight between these two was an extremely close, competitive affair. I do feel Kessler clearly deserved the decision, but the fight was back-and-forth all night and a straight-up war in the final two rounds.
With three years gone by since that fight, don't expect Round 1 of the rematch to pick up exactly where Round 12 left off. This will be a new fight, and both fighters will be intelligent about how they re-engage with such a well-matched foe.
In a lot of ways, I expect this fight to look very much the same as the last one, which means that boxing fans will win no matter what. But ultimately, I think Carl Froch's recent run of tougher competition will serve him well.
I expect a very close fight, but for Froch to be slightly sharper.
I think the fact that the fight is happening in London plays heavily in his favor as well. That's not to say that I think there will be any deliberate corruption. But Froch is going to be fighting in front of 18,000 fans who will scream wildly at everything he does. That will be a very challenging environment for scoring a fight.
So my prediction on this one is Carl Froch, 115-113.